Thursday, 30 April 2009


Dee is safely home. The truck—the most monstrous horse truck I have ever seen—could not get up Wenallt Road, so I had to walk her about half a mile to the yard, including up a very steep hill. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that Dee naps badly and can do this even when being led, so I was rather anxious about having to lead her such a long way to a new yard. As it turns out she behaved splendidly and we had no problems.

She had suffered a nasty cut on one foot. Judging by the amount of caked blood I would imagine it happened on loading. Also I was amazed that she had no boots or bandages on or even a tail bandage for such a long journey. Sorry Luck Transport, but I'm not too impressed. The driver was a nice chap and treated Dee gently and calmly however, and went to a lot of trouble to turn the truck around and reverse it up the steep lane so that Dee was stepping out onto a ramp going uphill rather than downhill. So that was good.

I kept Dee in Red's stable last night (they've put his picture on the door). This morning the cut on her foot was dried up and scabbed over and she is not lame, so we decided to turn her out. She was turned out into Red's field where there are a few other non-confrontative horses. Red immediately cantered over to her and got kicked at for his trouble. Thomas also got kicked at, but it was mostly for show and only lasted a few minutes. Red and Thomas have become good friends and are always together in the field. This morning however, Red wanted to be by Dee and so Thomas tried to be by her as well but kept being shooed away. I felt a bit sorry for Thomas. When I left, Dee and Red were grazing beside each other—looking like twins again—and Thomas was a little way away from them grazing with the other ponies (sorry it's a rather distant photo). All was peaceful. Hopefully as Dee gets used to Thomas he can be included in the gang as well.

Last night I gave Dee a thorough groom and got the lugs out of her mane. She looks beautiful. N. treated her foot and Dee stood calmly and let it happen. Then Dee and I just enjoyed being together for quite a long time – me stroking and talking to her and she resting her head contentedly on my shoulder. Life is good.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Coming home

The weather was frightful when we visited Dee on our way home from Cornwall. A gale-force wind was blowing in from the sea lashing stinging, icy rain into our faces. So much for Cornwall being warmer than Cardiff. All the horses were at the bottom of the first field where the hedgerow afforded them some shelter. We called Dee, but realised it would be impossible for her to hear us over the wind. We trudged across the field, leaning into the wind and holding our coats tightly around us. As soon as we were within earshot, Dee looked up and trotted over.

She no longer has one shoe on and her feet look as though they have been trimmed – which was confirmed by K. of Gorgeous Grazing when we saw her later. We gave Dee a dozen carrots and told her again that she would be coming home to Cardiff soon. In the warm of K's cottage we informed her of our intention to move Dee back home, and of our good fortune in finding a place where we could have both horses. We discussed how to move her and K. suggested a horse transporting company that she uses regularly, and gave us her number. We feel this will be the best plan as we are inexperienced in transporting horses and it is a long journey for us to take on in a hired vehicle. It would also possibly cost more in the long run as well, by the time we have paid for diesel, vehicle hire and an overnight stay.

We meandered home along the north Devon coast road rather than heading across to the motorway. It made the journey take all day but was most enjoyable with beautiful countryside and spectacular sea views. The cats were very pleased to see us.

So often in our dealings with Dee extraordinary luck arises. We had thought it would take quite a while to organise transport for Dee, but the transporter K. recommended happens to be coming to Cardiff on Wednesday. Amazing! So Dee will be back home on Wednesday. I have warned them at Briwnant Riding Centre that she is a dominant mare and will be aggressive at first. She has lived with other horses now for over two years and has been fine, so I am confident that she will settle down again after her initial assertive display. At least she knows Red, and Red is fond of her despite her moodiness. I'm sure he will be glad to see her. I've bought her a saddle on ebay—if you remember we had one of our saddles stolen—and think I have the makings of a bridle with a hackamore among my things. She will be fine in this until I decide to afford another cross-under bridle.

So once more I will have my lovely mare in Cardiff, and once again we shall be able to ride out together at the weekend. I am so thankful and feel blessed. I'll post later in the week when she arrives to let my readers know how she is settling in.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Visiting Dee

Today we visited Dee. The journey took us about four hours, and for the last part of it I was trying to prepare myself for the possibility of her ignoring me.

We arrived at the gate and I spotted her straight away. I called to her, she looked up, and immediately came over to us. She seemed really pleased to see us. We gave her some treats and just hung around with her for a while. She kept shooing off the horses who also wanted to come and say hello to us – the same bossy mare as always. She stayed with us for quite a long time, and then eventually wandered off back to the rest of the herd to graze.

Dee looks really well – a bit tatty of course at this time of year, as she is losing her winter coat. I was surprised at how round she is – she looks really well fed. I can see why they have to restrict how much pasture they have in the summer. At the moment she is in two large fields with six other horses. Dee has one shoe on, which intrigued me. Surely this cannot still be one from when we moved her in December? We are hoping to meet up with K. from Gorgeous Grazing when we visit Dee again on our way home, so I shall be able to ask her about this.

I've told Dee we are going to be bringing her home. As you can see from the photograph, I was just so happy to see her again.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Happy horse

I had a lovely ride on Red this morning with a lady who has a horse on loan at Briwnant Riding Centre. We rode the circuit of the Wenallt Horse Trail.

We had a slight misunderstanding about setting out time, and Red was getting restless waiting, so I took him into the arena. There were cones set out in there so we did some weaving in and out of them. Red was very calm and relaxed and happy to be occupied in this way while we waited.

I can't explain why the atmosphere at Briwnant seems to be so much more relaxed, but Red is really content. Wyndham is an excellent livery yard—I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone—but there was always a certain degreee of stress about the place for me, and perhaps also for Red. I know this is my hang-up and nothing to do with the yard. Perhaps it is the close proximity of the motorway to Wyndham. Perhaps it is something to do with Briwnant being a riding school rather than just a livery yard. Perhaps it is that they have more land so that the horses can live out at pasture all the time, and really just be natural horses. Perhaps it is that mares and geldings are not segregated at Briwnant. I don't know, but Red felt different on our ride today – more confident and comfortable. This could also of course be because he has been hacking out alone such a lot and was just enjoying some company.

We had to pass the field where Red used to graze with his Wyndham mates to get to the Wenallt Horse Trail. I expected him to call to them as he can often be quite vocal and gets attached to his friends, but he hardly glanced in their direction. As we came back down the lane I sensed a certain urgency in him to turn onto the track to Briwnant. It would seem it is home for him – less than a week after his arrival.

On Saturday we drive to Cornwall and will visit Dee on the way there and on the way back. I shall also broach the subject of moving Dee back to Cardiff with the people at Gorgeous Grazing. I'm still not sure how this is going to happen, but I am exploring various possibilities.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Exploring Briwnant

This morning we took Red on an exploration of Briwnant Riding Centre's land. First we rode about half way along the track and then turned off it to head up the hill through the undergrowth to the top field that borders Wenallt Road. There is a gate to the road from the top field. This will be a really useful track to take when accessing the Wenallt trail, because it avoids a large section of the road. It is very beautiful up there with wild primroses in full bloom and many rabbits scurrying into the cover of the bracken. The bluebells are just beginning to blossom. The view is extraordinary: right across Cardiff, the Severn Estuary with both Severn Bridges, Penarth Head, Steep and Flat Holm in the estuary and beyond them the coast of England. It was a little hazy so it was not possible to make out the Devon and North Cornish coasts today, but still one could see for a distance of more than 30 miles.

Next we rode back down towards the stable yard and then turned left along a muddy track. We learned later that this used to be the access track to Briwnant and eventually comes out at Thornhill Road by a hotel. We rode to nearly as far as the hotel and turned back. Two of the Briwnant dogs accompanied us which I think helped Red feel more confident, but also made him a little lively – I think it reminded him of hunting. Apparently if we took the track to its end, there are other rides that can be accessed from there, so I look forward to exploring those one day.

Arriving back at the yard again we went through a gate into two of the fields that are being rested at the moment. Here I took Red down to the bottom of each field so that he could have a good fast canter back up the fields, which we enjoyed. I had not cantered him in the top field as he seemed quite nervous up there as it is so high and open.

This ride had taken us about an hour. It is great to be somewhere where we can ride for so long without touching a road. Red is relaxed and settled and obviously really likes it at Briwnant. And—I hardly dare put it in writing it seems so much too good to be true—we can bring Dee here. We can bring her back from Cornwall and put her here on grass livery. I'm not sure how we are going to organise this at the moment, but we are going to Cornwall to see Dee next week, so I can discuss it with the lady at Gorgeous Grazing then. I can't quite believe that things could work out quite this perfectly at the moment —I'm afraid of jinxing it—but how wonderful it would be to have both our horses to ride out on together again. Dee is still up for riding. We shall have to start gently as she hasn't been ridden for four months, but she always enjoyed hacking out.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Settled already!

I telephoned Briwnant just as it was beginning to get dark this evening. I wanted to check that Red had been okay at the time he would have been used to coming in for a feed and being stabled for the night. P. at Briwnant told me that Red had shown no sign of wanting to come in. He was happy to be approached, but was not interested in leaving the field – he just wanted to carry on enjoying grazing.

Wow! Wonderful! He seems settled in already!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Move to Briwnant Riding Centre

(Photo 1: 'This looks interesting ...')

This morning we moved Red to Briwnant Riding Centre. 'ö-Dzin rode him over and I drove there with a car-load of rugs, tack and horsey items. We put Red into a stable for half and hour and then turned him out into a field. He is out with a few young and quiet horses who will not challenge him to start with, in the pasture next to the main herd. He will be introduced to the main herd in about a week once he has had time to get to know them. They will not work him for his first week either.

Red wandered out into the field completely relaxed and content. He had not neighed at all and seemed perfectly happy – which is quite a contrast to when we moved him to Wyndham, where he was very vocal and unsettled even though he had Dee in the stable next to him. So this bodes well. After about five minutes one of the young horses in the field noticed the new arrival and trotted over to meet Red. They greeted each other in a friendly way (photo 2). This photograph also shows the magnificent views from Briwnant – right across the Severn Estuary to England. Soon the other horses came over to check Red out. One of the mares was a bit fiesty and kicked out at him, but she has no shoes on and Red just got out of her way. It is a large field with plenty of grass, so he just wanted to graze. By the time we left he seemed to have made friends with two horses and they were grazing near one another. I have a good feeling about this place.

Another happy occurrence is that we met a lady we knew from Ridgeway at Briwnant. She had been interested in buying Red at one time, or loaning him, but decided she was not ready. She rode Dee a couple of times. She now has her own horse, a lovely mare called Star. I was so happy to meet her again, and I think we may ride together. It seems there may be more opportunity to ride with people from Briwnant.

I am sad to leave Wyndham. We have been happy there and Sally has been very kind to us. However I feel confident that Briwnant will be a good move for us – certainly Red seems relaxed there already. I shall telephone later this evening—after the time he is used to coming in for a feed and to be stabled for the night—to see how he is. They will feed him in the evening until he is used to the Briwnant routine, and will bring him in and stable him if he is distressed – but I think this is unlikely. I think he will be quite content to stay out in such a large field with plenty of grass.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Birthday hike

It is a family tradition that one day over the weekend closest to one of our birthdays, is set aside for a fun event chosen by the birthday boy or girl. Last weekend it was 'ö-Dzin's 50th birthday. As his treat on Saturday, 'ö-Dzin chose a walk to visit a waterfall called Sgwd yr Eira – Falls of Snow.

It is about an 1½ hours walk from the car park in Pontneddfechan, but we had a couple of false starts, so it took us more like 2 hours. The last part was a very steep descent down uneven and difficult steps. I found this really hard going on my knees, and our son Daniel—who is dyspraxic— also struggled. Foolishly I had forgotten to take any walking sticks with me.

The waterfall was magnificent. It is especially delightful because the footpath goes right behind the waterfall. It is aptly named because the water does have a snow-like appearance as it falls feely from the high rock.

Neither Daniel nor I fancied the walk back up the steep steps, but the only alternative was a much longer walk back taking another route. After much debate this is what we decided to do. It was certainly a much easier route, with gentler and more even steps and then a wide and easy track thereafter. Eventually we arrived at the road after passing by another of the waterfalls for which this area is renowned, Sgwd Clun Gwyn – White Meadow Fall.

It was our hope that we would find a path that cut across from the road to the southeast, as the road was a long way to return to the car park. Luckily we did find a pleasant path, however this tantalisingly took us to within view of the track by the river that we knew led to the car park, but did not seem to offer a means to get there. The path took us to the top of a bank above the river but then headed off in a different direction. We were reluctant to follow it further. By now we had been walking for over four hours and we were all tired. We decided to take a risk and scramble down the wooded bank rather than face a walk of uncertain duration on a path that was not even necessarily going in the right direction.

It took us about half an hour to scramble down the bank, moving from tree to tree for support, sliding on our bottoms sometimes, and zigzagging across on foot at others. The incline was almost vertical and about 100 feet down we estimated. This is fairly typical of our family expeditions – we always seem to end up having more of an adventure than we anticipated! We all arrived at the bottom of the bank safely. It took us a few moments to get our bearings and then we made our way to the bridge across the river so that we were once more on the path where we had started, and back at the car park in ten minutes. Phew! We'd been walking for about 5½ hours; we were footsore and tired; but we had also had a wonderful time. I was particularly proud of myself as this is the longest walk I have undertaken since my knee injury. There was a time when I thought I would not be able to do such a walk again this lifetime, so I am delighted that I survived it.

(Photographs: 1. Sgwd yr Eira; 2. Behind Sgwd yr Eira; 3. Richard and I resting on a compassionate tree.)

Unfortunately our exertions on Saturday meant that we were too tired to ride on Sunday, so we just visited Red and made a fuss of him. We are moving him to Briwnant on Friday morning. I am counting the days till I see Dee – less than two weeks now. She is reported as fit and well and has been without her rug for three weeks now, as it is milder in Cornwall. She and her herd friends have the run of two large fields at the moment, until the grass starts growing, when they will be restricted to one again. So Dee has plenty of space in which to roam.